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Iran

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Muqtada al-Sadr, the nationalist populist Shia cleric, has once again defied predictions as the coalition he leads outperformed rival parties in the parliamentary election on 12 May. His supporters successfully campaigned for social and political reform and against a corrupt and dysfunctional political establishment. It was the latest surprise in the career of a man... Read More
Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi is ahead in Iraq’s parliamentary election, according to unofficial results, in a poll that has added significance because of the escalating confrontation between the US and Iran. The surprise of the election so far is the strong showing of the Shia populist nationalist cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who has an electoral... Read More
Israel has launched its biggest attack ever on Iranian forces in Syria. This is a serious development, but reports of the entire Middle East being on the verge of all out war fail to fully appreciate the motives and intentions of the various players. Looked at from the Israeli point of view, it is an... Read More
“Iraq is at the muzzle of the gun,” says Ali Allawi, Iraqi historian and former minister, speaking of the increased turmoil expected to follow the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement. It is not only Iraq which is in danger: an escalating confrontation between the US and Iran will affect the whole region, but... Read More
Iran has an exaggerated reputation in the Middle East for Machiavellian cunning and an ability to outmanoeuvre its enemies. Britain used to be regarded in the same light in the region: its most ill-considered actions were admired as devilishly clever plots when all it was doing was taking advantage of the blunders of its opponents.... Read More
It is likely that Israel launched the missile attack in Syria that killed at least 26 pro-government fighters, many of them Iranians, late on Sunday night. The targets included a ground-to-ground missile depot that exploded with the seismic impact of a small earthquake. Iranian news outlets first confirmed and then denied that Iranian facilities had... Read More
The trove of Iranian documents about its nuclear programme presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as proof of Tehran’s duplicity contain nothing of substance that was not known before. Though the disclosure was made in order to justify President Donald Trump torpedoing the Iran nuclear deal on 12 May, Mr Netanyahu was unable to... Read More
As a journalist, I have always dreaded reporting on meetings between world leaders billed as “historic” or “momentous” or just plain “significant”. Such pretensions are usually phoney or, even if something of interest really does happen, its importance is exaggerated or oversimplified. But plus ca change is not always a safe slogan for the cautious... Read More
A crisis in relations between the US and Iran – which has the potential to produce a military confrontation in the Middle East – is building rapidly in the expectation that President Donald Trump will withdraw the US from the Iran nuclear deal in just over two weeks’ time. Mr Trump is demanding that Iran... Read More
Donald Trump has decided to keep US forces in Syria for a limited period, ending speculation about an immediate pull-out fuelled by the president himself. He agreed at a National Security Council meeting that the 2,000 US troops backed by massive airpower should stay in Syria where they support the Kurds in the east of... Read More
Armed conflict between the US and Iran is becoming more probable by the day as super-hawks replace hawks in the Trump administration. The new National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has called for the US to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 and advocated immediate regime change in Tehran. The new Secretary of State,... Read More
The US-Iran confrontation is already destabilising parts of the Middle East that were starting to settle down after the defeat of Isis in the second half of last year. “The escalating American threats against Iran mean that the Iranians will be more vigorous in safeguarding their position in Iraq and Syria,” said a former Iraqi... Read More
President Trump is trying to kill off the nuclear deal with Iran, but at the same time make the Iranians take the blame. Once again today he is expected to waiver re-imposing strict sanctions on Iran, but will threaten to pull out next time round unless Congress and European countries improve the terms of the... Read More
The international media has a poor record in reporting protests and uprisings in the wider Middle East since 2011. These complex struggles were presented as simple battles between good and evil, like a scene out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Surprise and anguish were expressed when the supposed dawning of freedom and democracy in... Read More
Iran is seeing its most widespread protest demonstrations since 2009. They are still gaining momentum and some 15 people are reported to have been killed, though the circumstances in which they died remains unclear. The motive for the protests is primarily economic, but many slogans are political and some directly attack clerical rule in Iran... Read More
I was in my room in the Baghdad Hotel on al-Sadoun street last Sunday evening, writing about the chances for stability in Iraq taking hold, when the walls and floor began to shake. They jerked sideways and up and down several times as if my room was the cabin of boat in a rough sea.... Read More
President Trump’s stance on conflict in the Middle East is a mixture of bellicose threats and demonisation of opponents combined with rather more cautious and carefully calculated action or inaction on the ground. Leaders in Baghdad, Damascus, Riyadh and Tehran face the same problem as those in Tokyo and London, uncertain where the rhetoric ends... Read More
“Fake facts!” exclaimed a senior Iraqi official in exasperation as he pointed to photographs online allegedly showing the Iranian General Qasem Soleimani in Kirkuk, orchestrating the Iraqi government retaking of the city last month. He said that in reality the picture, tweeted by a Kurdish leader as evidence of Iranian hegemony, dates from 2014. The... Read More
As President Trump withdraws certification of the nuclear agreement with Iran, commentators across the world struggled for words to adequately convey their outrage and contempt. A favourite term to describe Trump is as “a wrecking ball”, but the phrase suggests a sense of direction and capacity to strike a target which Trump does not possess.... Read More
It was crude stuff. President Trump called on 55 Muslim leaders assembled in Riyadh to drive out terrorism from their countries. He identified Iran as a despotic state and came near to calling for regime change, though Iran held a presidential election generally regarded as fair only two days previously. He denounced Hezbollah and lined... Read More
Many people view Donald Trump as the most dangerous man on the planet, but next week he flies to Saudi Arabia for a three-day visit during which he will meet a man who surely runs him a close second as a source of instability. This is deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31 – the... Read More
The Trump administration is making its first radical policy change in the Middle East by escalating American involvement in the civil war in Yemen. Wrecked by years of conflict, the unfortunate country will supposedly be the place where the US will start to confront and roll back Iranian influence in the region as a whole.... Read More
President Trump made great play when he came into office with his return of a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office, presenting the move as a symbol of his admiration for adamantine patriotic resolve in pursuit of patriotic ends. Presumably, Trump was thinking of Churchill in 1940, not Churchill in 1915-16 when he... Read More
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Theresa May a frightening account during their meeting of the threat posed by Iranian aggression to Israel and everybody else. In Mr Netanyahu’s eyes, Iran is a much more dangerous enemy than Isis or al-Qaeda, seeking “to annihilate Israel, it seeks to conquer the Middle East, it threatens Europe,... Read More
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President Trump is adding further venom to the raging sectarian hatreds tearing apart Iraq and Syria by his latest ill-judged tweets. These have far greater explosive potential than his better known clashes with countries like Australia and Mexico, because in the Middle East he is dealing with matters of war and peace. In this complex... Read More
Analysis: Iran has escaped years of isolation and the threat of war without sustaining much damage
Iran is politically and economically stronger because of the agreement on its nuclear programme and the partial end of sanctions. Israel and Saudi Arabia had argued in their different ways that such a deal would open the door to a radical expansion of Iranian influence in the Middle East. The late Saudi King Abdullah was... Read More
Shia militiamen believe the nuclear deal will herald more American help in battle to liberate Iraq
They are home to more than a million of Iraq’s Shia Muslims, and contain the tombs of that faith’s holiest figures. In recent months they have provided thousands of fighters for the militias battling Isis, but their inhabitants have watched in frustration as US air power has been deployed in support of the less effective... Read More
Air strikes and blockade threaten humanitarian disaster for millions
Dozens of Saudi soldiers and Yemeni fighters have been killed in clashes on the border between the countries as five weeks ofSaudi air attacks fail to bring the war to an end. Air strikes and heavy artillery fire in the southern port of Aden have left much of the city in ruins and the attempted... Read More
As the US and Iran reach accord, Saudi Arabia endangers the status quo in the Middle East
A succession of crucially important military and diplomatic events are convulsing the political landscape of the Middle East. The most significant development is the understanding between the US and five other world powers with Iran on limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of sanctions. But the muting of hostility between the US... Read More
Tehran may have formed an unlikely alliance with its sworn enemy, but a policy of open confrontation and covert...
The United States says Iranian F-4 Phantoms have carried out bombing raids against Isis north-east of Baghdad, a claim that appears to be confirmed by film of the aircraft taken from the ground. Iran, however, denies that any of its planes are carrying out combat missions in Iraq. The raids are said to have taken... Read More
US and Iran need to work together fast, as the barbarians are at the gate
Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned against US intervention in Iraq, but US officials suspect that Iran wants to use its cooperation in political changes in Baghdad to extract concessions in negotiations on Iran’s nuclear programme. The Independent has learned that US officials have told Iraqi leaders that the Iranians are linking their... Read More
Obama has demanded more ‘effective’ leadership and Iran looks set to follow as Isis militants threaten Baghdad
Isolated and discredited by humiliating military defeat, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is likely to go soon, battered as he is by only slightly veiled demands for his immediate departure from powerful figures who once supported him. Within hours of President Obama making it implicitly clear that he wants a change of political leadership... Read More
Extremists have a grip on the country as Sunni Muslims decide that the jihadists are preferable to persecution by the...
Even the fanatics of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) are astonished at the extent of their own victory in taking control over Iraq's second city, Mosul, in the past week. "Enemies and supporters alike are flabbergasted," said Isis spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani. It is difficult to think of any examples in... Read More
Revolutionary Guard to help defend Baghdad from Sunni extremists; Top cleric calls on Shias to take up arms; Reports of...
Iran is moving to stop the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) from capturing Baghdad and the provinces immediately to the north of the capital. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is taking a central role in planning and strategy in Baghdad in the wake of the disintegration of the Iraqi army in the... Read More
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Collapse of Shia-dominated regime could provoke Iranian intervention
Iraq is breaking up. The Kurds have taken the northern oil city of Kirkuk that they have long claimed as their capital. Sunni fundamentalist fighters vow to capture Baghdad and the Shia holy cities further south. Government rule over the Sunni Arab heartlands of north and central Iraq is evaporating as its 900,000-strong army disintegrates.... Read More
The Reformists in Iran will be vulnerable to allegations that they are negotiating from weakness
Has the best chance of an agreement on controlling Iran’s nuclear programme just passed by? Political will for a deal is still there in Washington and Tehran, but its opponents will also gather their formidable forces. These include Republicans and many Democrats, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, France. The momentum towards an interim... Read More
A deal on nuclear weapons has been on the cards since President Obama decided not to attack Syria
The decision by President Obama not to launch air strikes on Syrian government forces after the apparent use of chemical weapons by them on 21 August prepared the ground for a possible US-Iranian deal on Iran's nuclear programme. By its actions, the US showed it was not prepared to undertake military action to overthrow President... Read More
The timing of the latest shot in a covert war invites questions about the role of proxies
What to make of the latest alleged assassination in Iran of a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guards just as Iran and the US move towards negotiations? Is it a last-minute attempt by Israel or the Iranian dissident group the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) to sabotage talks – or at least to show that they are still... Read More
Ethnic cleansing continues as President Rouhani prepares to address the UN on Tuesday
Cracks suddenly appear in the ice of the deep-frozen relations between the US and Iran. President Hassan Rouhani emulates Vladimir Putin by writing an opinion piece in the American press oozing goodwill and willingness to co-operate with the US. He gives an interview on American television, repeating: "We have time and again said that in... Read More
The "Resistance Bloc" is Fighting for Its Life
Turkish artillery is firing across the border into Syria. Explosions have torn apart buildings in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, making their floors collapse on top of each other so they look like giant concrete sandwiches. The country resembles Lebanon during its civil war, the victim of unbearable and ever-escalating violence but with no clear victor... Read More
The Real Threat to Israel is Not Iran, But It's Own Cozy Relationship With Arab Dictators and Monarchs
There has always been something stagey and contrived about Israel's blood-curdling declarations that it is going to bomb Iran, but as a strategy it has worked astonishingly well, at home and abroad. Benjamin Netanyahu has been expert at manipulating Israelis' perception of threat. His popularity with voters enabled him last week to dumbfound the country's... Read More
“Long embargoes kill more people than brief wars”
The way in which the growing confrontation with Iran is being sold by the US, Israel and West European leaders is deeply dishonest. The manipulation of the media and public opinion through systematic threat exaggeration is similar to the drum beat of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction that preceded the... Read More
Hidden Hand Syndrome
Iran has long been denounced in Washington as the source of much of the evil in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies see the hand of Tehran behind protests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province. As the last US forces leave Iraq by the end of the year, there are... Read More
None of It Makes Sense
The claim that Iran employed a used-car salesman with a conviction for cheque fraud to hire Mexican gangsters to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington goes against all that is known of Iran's highly sophisticated intelligence service. The confident announcement of this bizarre plot by the US Attorney General Eric Holder sounds alarmingly similar to... Read More
A Tight Lid
Teheran The attempt by the Green movement, as anti-government activists are known, to emulate the protests across the Arab world is failing to shake the Iranian authorities, still less overthrow them. Over the past week the centre of Tehran has been calm with protesters making a negligible impact. "The regime has got good at calibrating... Read More
Were the Abductions of a Computer Expert and Bodyguards in Iraq an Act of Revenge by Tehran?
The abduction of the British computer expert Peter Moore and his four bodyguards was carried out partly in revenge for deadly bomb attacks in south-west Iran which Iranian officials blamed on Britain, according to a well-placed source in Baghdad. The five men were abducted by an Iranian-backed group in 2007 and it is now believed... Read More
Britain Pondered Raid on Iran Over Hostages
In the latest act of the grim drama surrounding the fate of the five hostages, officials in London have told the families of two of the guards, Alan McMenemy, from Glasgow, and Alec Maclachlan, from South Wales, that the two men are probably dead. The bodies of two other guards, Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst,... Read More
Military Action Will Destablize Iraq
Iraq will be plunged into a new war if Israel or the US launches an attack on Iran, Iraqi leaders have warned. Iranian retaliation would take place in Iraq, said Dr Mahmoud Othman, the influential Iraqi MP. The Iraqi government's main allies are the US and Iran, whose governments openly detest each other. The Iraqi... Read More
An Interview with Hoshyar Zebari
Baghdad. The five Iranian officials whose abduction in an a US helicopter raid in January led to a crisis in relations between the US and Iran could be released in June according to the Iraqi foreign minister. In an interview in Baghdad, Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, said that legally the US can only hold... Read More
Behind the Denials
The stand-off over the 15 British sailors and marines captured by Iran ended with a de facto prisoner exchange, despite denials by Britain and Iran that a swap was intended. The first sign of a breakthrough the day before yesterday was the release of Jalal Sharafi, an Iranian diplomat abducted from the streets of Baghdad... Read More
Patrick Cockburn
About Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn is the Middle East correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent. He was awarded the 2005 Martha Gellhorn prize for war reporting. His book on his years covering the war in Iraq, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (Verso) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for non-fiction.


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